Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Better late than never: Gilead Media Music Festival happened in Oshkosh, WI on April 28th and 29th

Gilead Media, the extreme music label founded in Oshkosh, WI by Adam Bartlett, presented a two-day festival of black metal, doom and punk on April 28 and 29 at the Electric Lounge & Lanes. I have a strong disdain for music festivals because I'm a grump, but the lineup was too good to pass up. It was a tremendous success for many reasons, and I know I'm not the only one hoping that Adam will consider making the festival a regular or semi-regular event.

I've provided a brief recap of the weekend below, complete with my blurry pictures that I managed. The short of all of it is this: I had an awesome time at this music festival, and if it happens again next year, I highly recommend you go. The bands were all good-to-great, the crowd was polite, the drinks were cheap, and Oshkosh was kind of charming. No complaints to be found here.

Band-by-band, day-by-day recap after the jump...


The Electric Lounge & Lanes is a three-story building complete with bowling lanes, a bar (duh), some sort of ballroom and the strange mead hall that the festival took place in. The multi-colored fluorescent lights were out of place, but otherwise it was a pretty fitting stage for all the bands.

I traveled there with three other gentlemen, and we arrived Saturday to catch the Darger + Plague Mother set that started the whole festival. After the soothing, bubbling noise of their 15-minute set, we fumbled our way to Cranky Pat's for some meat-za (i.e., The Big Meat: "This pizza is over 1/3 meat!!!" read the menu) and came back ready to do battle with the rest of the festival's first day.

We caught only the tail-end of Aseethe, from Iowa, who sounded pretty great if you're into anything slow and heavy. Protestant was up next, and they really got things going with their crusty punk. The guys in the band look old but they were one of the most energetic bands I've seen live in a long while. Really killer set. Get Rad followed them and they played a lightning fast hardcore set. Not my thing, but not bad, either.

Unfortunately, this was the part of the fest where I didn't really know how to work the camera I was borrowing (not that I ever really did figure it out, as evidenced below), so no pictures for the first few bands.

Hell, from Salem, OR, was next. They played my favorite set of the entire festival - filthy doom played by four terrifying (looking) men. The vocalist shook as he screamed on top of the gnarled riffs. The drummer cut his palm open with his knife during the last song just to make sure you knew how much these dudes meant what they were doing. I highly recommend picking up their "II" album and seeing them live if you ever get the chance.

Fell Voices
I think there was a lot of anticipation for the next two bands from California: Fell Voices and Ash Borer. Both bands play a style of atmospheric (that's another word for "they play long songs"), somewhat melodic black metal, and tend to prefer anonymity, rarely touring outside of the West coast. So it was a real treat to get to see these bands - all of their recorded output is good, but the Fell Voices/Ash Borer split LP and Ash Borer's self-titled LP are particular favorites of mine.

Fell Voices, a three-piece, wasted no time in setting the bar for acts to follow. No microphones were present, but the drummer and bassist screamed over the wild maelstrom. The drummer in particular was really impressive - I'm still not sure how someone can play drums that fast for that long while screaming as loud as he did and never lose a beat.

Ash Borer
Of the two bands, Ash Borer had the bigger set-up and the bigger sound. It was no less fierce than Fell Voices - the band's huge recorded sound came through in the live setting. I was really impressed by Ash Borer's grueling set, but also totally exhausted by the end of it. It's hard being pummeled like I was for 45 minutes.

Nashville's Loss closed out the evening with a set of inspired funeral doom. The plodding pace of the band's set was a welcome change. There's a lot of intricacy at play on Loss' excellent "Despond," and though it wasn't obvious to me after several cursory listens, the live show made it very clear that this is a band that knows what they are doing. Loss' set was a major highlight of the festival.


Bolstered by a good night of sleep and a killer pancake breakfast complete with Americano made with home-roasted coffee beans (special thanks to the Clementis for all of that), I felt ready to take on day two of the festival. I also bought new earplugs because I'm a wimp.

Mania started the day with some grungy one-man black metal. It is the bassist from Hell's project, though he was accompanied by the vocalist/guitarist from Hell live. Note to one-man black metallers: if you play live, do what Mania did and play the drums to all the tracks - it was effective.

Baby Boy, a post-hardcore four piece from Louisiana, features two members of Sunday's headliner, Thou. The band played a quick and potent set, bringing to mind bands such as "Sirens"-era On the Might of Princes and Hammerhead. I'm excited to see what this band does in the future.

Sleepwalker is a project featuring two members from Fell Voices and two members from Ash Borer. They of course brought a brand of black metal to the table, but this was more repetitive and hypnotic than anything either of the parent bands do. It was an energetic set by yet another band that is rarely seen live.

At this point we stepped out to eat at Fat Mama's, so we regrettably had to miss A Scanner Darkly (sorry Adam) and most of Northless' mammoth riff exhibition. Northless is a band that gets better every time I see them, and the room full of impressed people after their set during the festival was proof of that.

Mutilation Rites
Brooklyn's Mutilation Rites stepped right up after Northless, wordlessly launching into a killer set of crusty black metal. I don't know, maybe I always missed the point with Mutilation Rites before this set, but they were really excellent. Their new album "Empyrean" is out now and comes highly recommended - Adam from Gilead Media will be handling the vinyl.

The Body
Providence, RI's the Body are no strangers to the Wisconsin area. Their deafeningly loud post-apocalyptic doom was just what I need before the one-two punch of black metal awaiting me. Chip sold his North drums, but the band doesn't need fancy drums with songs like "This Is Disease" and "Lathspell, I Name You."

The aforementioned "one-two punch of black metal" came in the form of Minneapolis' False and Baton Rouge's Barghest. False played all three of their epic songs, twisting and turning and eventually ending up with compositions of epic proportions.

While I enjoyed False's set, Barghest is more my speed. The band is gritty and extremely dark, going as far as selling t-shirts that display bullets and the slogan "Anti-Human/Anti-Life." They tore through several songs live and it all sounded great to me. Gilead Media just repressed their untitled LP; I suggest picking one up.

Baton Rouge's Thou closed out the festival. As promised, the band played their debut LP "Tyrant" in its entirety. The crowd responded in kind to the band's intensity, making for a really nice finish. As good as Thou's performance was, it was not to top Bryan Funck's stage banter and his well-worded thanks to Adam for setting the whole festival up. To paraphrase Bryan: "I usually hate festivals, but I enjoyed every minute of this one." From everyone that I've talked to, that seems to be the consensus on Gilead Media's inaugural music festival. Many thanks to Adam and all the bands for an exciting and memorable weekend. Let's do it again next year.

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